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Everything you need to know about whiplash

Whiplash is serious. It can cause both physical and psychological pain, with severe cases affecting your ability to perform even the simplest day-to-day tasks.

There's a stigma attached to those who make a whiplash compensation claim. Great Britain has been branded “the whiplash capital of the world”, and people who have suffered a genuine injury, through no fault of their own, are made to feel guilty for claiming the compensation to which they’re entitled. We think that’s wrong.

The truth is that whiplash is a very common injury. Around 70% of road traffic accident personal injury claims are for whiplash, and between 2012 and 2014, whiplash accounted for 55% of minor injuries suffered by road users. The fact is your head and neck are incredibly delicate, and it doesn’t take much to damage them.

We're here to provide you with all the information you need about whiplash, so you can fully understand the injury and the process for claiming compensation.

What is
whiplash?

Whiplash is a neck injury caused by a sudden movement of the head and neck forwards, backwards or sideways. This abrupt movement of the head stretches and strains the muscles, ligaments and tendons in the neck and spine, which can lead to a range of symptoms.

Severe cases of whiplash may result in broken vertebrae or even brain injuries, both of which can be life threatening.

Most cases of whiplash are caused by the acceleration or deceleration that occurs during car crashes. For example, you may be stopped at traffic lights when a car crashes into the back of you, causing your head to jolt forcefully. A head-on collision may also cause whiplash as your seatbelt would stop your body, but not your head, from travelling forwards, causing it to jerk forwards

Normal Driving Position

Hyperflexion

The head and neck then snap forwards, putting further stress on the ligaments and soft tissues.

Hyperextension

After the initial impact, the neck violently jerks backwards, causing hyperextension of the head and neck.

Don’t think that whiplash can only be caused in high-speed collisions - it can occur travelling at as little as 5 mph. It can also happen to any person involved in an accident, not just the driver.

Although road traffic accidents are the primary cause, it is possible to suffer whiplash from a trip or fall or even contact sports such as rugby or boxing - anything that results in a sudden, violent movement of the head.

Case Study

The Client was travelling in the outside lane of a dual carriageway when the Defendant pulled out of a car park and into a collision with the Client’s correctly proceeding vehicle. The client sustained whiplash to their back and neck, injuries to their right wrist and right knee, and also felt dazed and shaken. After going to A&E and consulting a GP, the Client was advised to take anti-inflammatories and painkillers. The Defendant denied liability, with their insurers bringing a claim against our Client for their losses. This meant the case had to go to court.

After hearing both sides of the story, the judge dismissed the Defendant’s claim in full. Our client received £2,637 in compensation.

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Symptoms
of whiplash

There are various symptoms of whiplash. The type and severity of the injury depends on multiple factors, including the force and direction of the impact, the age of the person and medical history. Women are also more likely to suffer from whiplash than men.

There are two different types of whiplash injuries: acute whiplash and chronic whiplash.

1. Symptoms of acute whiplash

Acute whiplash accounts for the majority of whiplash injuries. Symptoms include:

  • Neck pain
  • Stiffness
  • Tenderness of the back
  • Headaches
  • Loss of movement
  • Lower back pain
  • Numbness in the arms & hands
  • Tiredness
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Difficulty in swallowing food
  • Tinnitus
  • Vertigo

2. Symptoms of chronic whiplash

Also known as late whiplash syndrome. Symptoms of severe whiplash include:

  • Neck pain
  • Stiffness
  • Persistent headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Aching pain
  • A reduction in balance
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Pain in shoulders causing numbness to hand & arms

It usually takes around 6 to 12 hours for the physical symptoms of whiplash to start to develop, and if left untreated symptoms can persist for months or even years. In the majority of cases, recovery is within six months.

Not all symptoms are physical, however. There can be various psychological symptoms of whiplash that might not be immediately obvious. These can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Poor concentration
  • Depression
  • Fear of travelling
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder

Are you entitled to whiplash compensation?

If you have been involved in an accident that wasn’t your fault and display any of the above symptoms then you could have whiplash. If that’s the case then yes, you are entitled to compensation.

Suffering from any of these symptoms of whiplash? You might be entitled to compensation.

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Treatments
for whiplash

In mild cases, regular pain relief such as paracetamol or ibuprofen can be taken and symptoms will clear up on their own.

However, upon consultation with a GP, many people find they need further treatment. Your doctor may prescribe you with stronger pain relief and even a course of physiotherapy if symptoms persist over several weeks. A physiotherapist will give you a set of specific exercises or massage the area to build muscle strength and increase mobility.

If you suffer from psychological issues caused by your accident, then your doctor will refer you to the relevant medical professionals.

In general, it is recommended that you keep your neck mobile rather than wearing a supportive brace or cone. This can help speed up the recovery process and reduce stiffness. Maintaining good posture is also encouraged, whilst certain exercises, such as yoga, can be beneficial.

Always consult with a GP before undertaking any kind of exercise.

Do you need to see a doctor to claim compensation for whiplash?

We would always recommend you see a doctor following an accident, particularly if you suffer any of the aforementioned symptoms. At the end of the day, your physical wellbeing is more important than any compensation claim.

However, it’s not necessary for you to see a GP before making a compensation claim, and in our experience, not seeing a doctor won’t affect your chances of making a successful claim.

During the claim process, it is required that you are examined by an independent panel of doctors/GPs employed by Medical Reporting Organisations. Don’t worry - we will organise all of this for you and ensure it is as stress free as possible.

If you think you’re entitled to compensation for your whiplash injury, speak to our experts today.

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How much compensation do you get for whiplash?

The idea of personal injury compensation is to put the claimant back in the same position they were before their accident. The amount of compensation you’re entitled to for a whiplash claim differs from case to case.

You can receive compensation for ‘general damages’, which covers pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life caused by the injury. This is very difficult to calculate, so a medical expert will examine you and produce a report that will form the basis upon which compensation is awarded. This may include the inability to take part in certain activities as a result of your injury, such as playing sports.

You may also be entitled to ‘special damages’, relating to financial losses which have been incurred as a result of the accident. Understandably, these are much easier to calculate. They include:

  • Damage to property - e.g. if you car was damaged in the accident.
  • Loss of earnings - e.g. if you have had to take time off work or have lost business due to the accident.
  • Other costs - e.g. car hire or health care costs.

You can quickly estimate how
much your claim may be worth.

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Case Study

Our Client was the front passenger in the Defendant’s vehicle which failed to stop when travelling at speed on the motorway, causing a serious rear-end collision. The Client received whiplash and injuries to his right wrist, as well as psychological injuries, including fear of travel. He did not seek medical attention, instead choosing to self-medicate.

Our client received £2,220 in compensation.

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How long do whiplash claims take?

How long a claim takes differs on a case-by-case basis. Straightforward cases can be settled in as little as a couple of months, but more complicated cases may take several months or even years.

If the defendant does not accept blame for the incident then the case will need to go to court. Naturally, this will prolong the process, meaning you will have to wait longer to receive the compensation if the claim is successful.

The claim will also need to go to trial if the defendant is not willing to pay the amount of compensation we believe you deserve, and therefore our lawyers want to take the claim to court to help you get more money.

However, it’s worth remembering that very few cases actually go to trial.

READ MORE ABOUT CLAIMS GOING TO COURT >

How long do you have to make a whiplash claim?

You normally only have 3 years from the date of the accident in which to start court proceedings. However, we would recommend making a claim soon after your accident to get the process moving forward as quickly as possible.

Whiplash Claims For Children

Adults aren’t the only ones who can suffer from whiplash; children can make claims and receive compensation, too.

As with any injury, it’s vital you get your child fully assessed by a medical professional before you even think about any kind of claim. Symptoms in children can be difficult to diagnose, as they may not be forthcoming in telling you if they feel unwell. Children may also not understand how they are feeling (if they’re anxious or depressed, for example) and so it’s important to closely monitor your child’s behaviour following an accident.

If you then want to move forward with a compensation claim, we will progress just as we would with any other claim. Any compensation a child receives will be kept in a court fund until they reach the age of 18, at which point it will be released.

It may be possible to release part of the money before then, but this is subject to court approval. For example; a Judge may order that part of the compensation can be spent on an educational holiday or computer.

Case Study

The Client who was 7 years old suffered personal injury following a road traffic accident. At the time of the accident, the claimant was a passenger in a motor vehicle that was involved in a collision with another vehicle, due to the negligent driving of the Defendant.

As a result of the accident the claimant suffered the loss of 3 teeth, a cut to the lip and chin, together with general pain and suffering. The claimant also developed psychological symptoms post accident which manifested themselves in the form of bed wetting, irritability and hypervigilence. In addition he developed travel anxiety.

Following the accident the claimant attended A&E. His wounds were sutured. The wounds to the claimant's chin and lip healed uneventfully albeit that he was left with some minor scarring.

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Is your child suffering from whiplash? They could be entitled to compensation.

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Proposed changes to whiplash compensation claims

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, recently laid out plans that would see major changes to personal injury compensation.

Under current legislation, claimants who receive under £1,000 compensation for their injury must pay their own legal fees. The radical new plans would see this threshold rise to £5,000, which could put off some people who have been genuinely injured from making a claim.

That’s why, if you’ve suffered whiplash in an accident that wasn’t your fault, you shouldn’t wait to make a claim. Do it now and get the compensation you’re entitled to.

Find out more about the proposed changes to whiplash claims or call us on 0800 025 0000 to discuss how these changes may affect your whiplash compensation claim.

How to make a whiplash compensation claim

So you’ve been involved in an accident that wasn’t your fault and you’ve been diagnosed by a doctor as having whiplash. How do you claim compensation?

The first step is to give us a call on 0800 025 0000 or fill out our online claim form.

We specialise in whiplash claims and have a team of dedicated road traffic accident solicitors who will do all the hard work for you and fight your corner so you receive the compensation you’re entitled to.

Whiplash is serious. Speak to us today about the compensation you’re entitled to. Don't suffer in silence.

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